WALNUT CREEK -- While 3,000 miles away President Barack Obama was gearing up for the State of the Union presentation, Mayor Kristina Lawson was delivering her own stately address -- about the State of Walnut Creek.
During the annual luncheon, Lawson reported on Tuesday that the State of the City is "sound" and listed the past year's triumphs as well as what lies ahead. Put on annually by the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Lawson focused on honoring the past, saying the state of the city is "just as promising as it was 100 years ago."
In her first State of the City address, as part of her first term as mayor, Lawson paid homage to the city's centennial year. Walnut Creek will turn 100 in October, and the city has planned a yearlong birthday celebration. And while other city leaders in the last year have issued stringent warnings about dire financial straits, Lawson seemed to play that aspect down. She said that while budget projections show deficits and that the city must pass a balanced budget, Walnut Creek always pulls through.
"While it has stopped raining, we do continue to have challenges ahead," she said. "We've been here before and we still managed to accomplish a great number of things for our community. We will overcome our current challenges, we will continue to invest in our future and we will thrive as a community for the next 100 years and beyond."
She did ask for community members' help, saying everyone must work together gather ideas on how to make tough choices about funding city services.
While there were no major announcements in the speech, Lawson touted development in Walnut Creek, specifically the half-billion-dollar project Broadway Plaza owners Macerich plan to update and expand their outdoor mall downtown.
"Our status as a premier retail destination remains strong," she said.
She also called the recent $102 million purchase by Tishman Speyer of the 10-story California Plaza office building near the Walnut Creek BART Station "unbelievable," a positive sign of investors' willingness to come to Walnut Creek.
Lawson said the 14 housing projects currently underway that will bring 1,500 units to the city, specifically the Brio development near the corner of Ygnacio Valley Road and Civic Drive and the BART Transit Village.
"Investments like these are the envy of cities everywhere across the country," she said. "We should all be proud."
Lawson also championed the secondhand-smoke ordinance, which prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and multifamily homes and goes into effect this week.
While Lawson touched on many topics from the opening of the Rossmoor events center to the adoption of a bicycle master plan, she made a quick comment on the need to rebuild the city's pools. This year the city will explore ways to rebuild the pools, specifically at Heather Farm Park, she said. For years the City Council has debated and talked about the need to fix the failing pools. But on Tuesday Lawson did not go into detail on how a multimillion dollar project will be paid for.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.